Oregon’s new plan to allow restaurants and bars to sell cocktails to go is only temporary — and state regulators are keeping an eye out for problems.

At a one-day special session on Dec. 21, Oregon legislators changed state statutes to allow bars and restaurants to sell wine and cocktails to go. The idea came from other states and is an effort to help the foodservice economy weather the pandemic.

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But the new law is not a free-for-all. There are limits on the number of alcoholic drinks customers can take out, and they need to pair their drink order with a food order from the same establishment.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission spokesman Bryant Hailey said such parameters will help control consumption. Some experts in substance abuse recovery worry that loosening state rules on alcohol delivery will harm people struggling with addiction.

“We’re going to test this thing out. We’re looking at it. We’re listening. We’re working with industry and our public health partners to understand: ‘Are we going to do this in the future? And how can we do it better?’” Hailey said. “We think about public health with these things, limiting distilled spirits to 3-ounce pours and 6-ounce pours for wines and wine cocktails,” said Hailey. “You have to have some sideboards on this.”

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The new bill sunsets 60 days after the governor’s pandemic emergency declaration expires. A permanent change is likely to be considered during the regular legislative session, next year.

Still, restaurant and bar owners are pleased.

“This is a major win for the industry, and by no means a cure-all, but a positive step in the right direction,” said OLCC commissioner and restaurant owner Kiauna Floyd. “The great work done here [at the Legislature] is immensely appreciated by an industry that employs over 170,000 Oregonians.”

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Consumers may use food delivery apps like DoorDash to order drinks-to-go.

Under the new rules, bars and restaurants remain responsible for verifying the age of customers, and they’re not allowed to deliver if the customer is inebriated.

“We recognize that a drinks-to-go program, while warranted and particularly critical at this time, is not enough to preserve income streams that sustain small businesses,” said OLCC Chairman Paul Rosenbaum.

“The commission must do everything in its power to preserve and protect this industry so that, because believe me if we don’t, after the pandemic has run its course, these small businesses won’t be around to continue to serve our communities.”

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